*Warning: This article contains spoilers for Better Call Saul Season 3, Episode 5*
The slow-burning brilliance of Better Call Saul never ceases to amaze. Here is a show originally planned to be a comedy, focusing on motor-mouthed, dodgy-dealing lawyer, Saul Goodman. Instead, the Breaking Bad spinoff has eased into its own identity to become one of the most gripping dramas on television, consistently delivering impeccable, well-paced storytelling.
Following on from last week's Breaking Bad vibe, "Chicanery" swaps the bright red-and-yellow interior of Los Pollos Hermanos for the dreary, fluorescent drenched courtrooms of the State Bar. The stage is set for the biggest showdown between feuding brothers, Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) and Chuck McGill (Michael McKean), with Jimmy facing an almost certain disbarment by the New Mexico Bar Association following his confession of a felony break-in at Chuck's home.
Slippin' Jimmy's escape plan falls into place perfectly, though. His defence, aided by lover, friend and lawyer Kim Wexler, is to help the judges understand the relationship between him and his brother, enough so to play his ace card — to explain that he only made the confession of tampering with the Mesa Verde files to help alleviate Chuck's worsening mental state.
To do so, Jimmy uses his unconventional nous to call on the services of another familiar Breaking Bad face, Huell Babineaux. Saul's future narcoleptic bodyguard bumps into Chuck prior to the case, discreetly placing a phone battery in his pocket. As Jimmy cross-examines Chuck himself, he makes a case that he acted in the interest of Chuck's mental state, and that his Electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS) is a symptom of stress, and not a physical response.
'Chicanery' Is Arguably One Of The Best TV Episodes In A Generation
In a testament to the writing ingenuity of Vince Gilligan and and Peter Gould in #BetterCallSaul Season 3, what ensues is one of the most climactic payoffs on television. Chuck takes Jimmy's phone, revealing there is no battery. Jimmy then asks Chuck to check his pocket. Chuck uncovers the battery had been safety sitting in his pocket for almost two hours with no physical response, with leads to a masterful monologue by McKean, who reveals his seething hatred of Jimmy, as well as painting the picture that he is mentally unstable.
A multitude of finer details make this scene so poignant — the framing of the shot, the tense conflict between Jimmy's love of his brother and his final realisation that Chuck has so much disdain for him, the slow, close-up pan pulling the viewer into Chuck's rage-fuelled, anxiety ridden rant, and then the shocked, sad response by those left in the room. It's #television at its absolute best.
The question now, is what next for Chuck? Saul's brother doesn't appear in Breaking Bad, although that's not too much of a stretch, and doesn't necessarily mean he's out of the picture completely. In all likelihood, though, what happens next for Chuck could have a big impact on Jimmy's transition to Saul Goodman (in addition to the fate of Kim Wexler).
Theories On Chuck's Fate In 'Better Call Saul'
Better Call Saul is full of symbolism, with Season 3 perhaps stepping things up even more. The opening flashback foreshadowed Jimmy's entire plan (even the opening line was "I've found the phone"). After Chuck's rant, the camera pans back to the EXIT sign, which comes into focus as Chuck stares at it with an exasperated and repentant expression. This can only mean one thing — it's the end for Chuck, in perhaps more ways than one.
One popular theory is that Chuck is dead by the time events in #BreakingBad come around. Writer Gilligan is known for being a concise, purposeful writer. Taking that into consideration, there has been a lot of foreshadowing of fire at Chuck's home, and in particular, the hazard of the lantern that Chuck uses to read his newspaper. Could it be that Chuck's condition gets the better of him, he becomes careless, dies in a fire, and Jimmy blames himself?
Following his outburst, there's every chance Chuck could end up being disbarred himself. If so, it could lead to an even darker alternative; could Chuck end up committing suicide if he loses the most "sacred" thing he has, the ability to practice law? He is a man who puts immense amounts of pride on his legal knowledge, and the fallout from his disbarment could be grand.
Finally, Chuck's EHS is always at its worst when he perceived Jimmy's questionable ways with the law (he mentioned the billboard incident, for example). With that taken into consideration, it wouldn't be surprising to see the courtroom appearance — compounded by Jimmy inviting his ex-wife Rebecca and then duplicitously planting the phone battery — be the final straw that leads to a breakdown, and Chuck's submission to a mental institute.
What do you think will happen next for Chuck in Better Call Saul?